There’s an old Vaudeville bit where an otherwise calm person totally loses his cool at the utterance of a particular word and takes his rage out on the utterer. Folks of a certain vintage will remember versions done by the Three Stooges (Niagara Falls) and Abbott and Costello (Susquehanna Hat Company).
Trigger warning: if you intend to watch these, be ready for the standard head slaps, eye gouges, belly jabs, etc.
Trigger warnings have their place. I am thinking maybe New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio should get one every time a reporter is going to say the words “charter schools” and “test scores.” He seems to respond like he’s in one of those skits.
We all saw this most recently when de Blasio, while touting New York City’s improved state test scores, has his parade rained on by a reporter who gave him this: “While the city test scores grew incrementally … charter schools scores outpaced that growth almost double. Why do you think that is?”
“When you see those scores, do you say to the Chancellor or anybody else, ‘Hey, what do you think's going on there?’ Do you look at the difference in those scores and say ‘Is there something else we should be learning there?’"
No, de Blasio didn’t poke the questioner in the eye or put his fist through his fedora.
He did worse.
With a week’s worth of snark and sniffling, de Blasio managed to:
a) Insult every charter student who did well on the state exams by saying they were trained to score well, like puppies are trained to do tricks;
b) Denigrate the hard work put in by hundreds of school teachers; and
c) Tell thousands of mostly black and lower-income city parents their children’s accomplishments were a fraud.
He even referred to kids in city schools as “our children.” Meaning charter school students are whose children, exactly?
He’d obviously rather have a tooth pulled by a team of horses than give charters some credit, especially ones part of a certain (highly successful) network.
The mayor’s views are his prerogative, but when all is said and done de Blasio will find himself on the wrong side of history.
At a time when the culture is pointed toward wanting more options, he’s clutching to a centralized bureaucratic mindset that tells parents obviously unhappy with the city’s schools to “suck it up” and send their kids there anyway.
Americans who feel disserved by existing sets of rules imposed upon them by outside parties – eg, organized religion, marriage, taxi cabs, gender identification and more -- demand and are granted the right to have a say in what affects them.
Yet, the mayor will not fight for parents who opt for public schools not run by the city.
While saying he wants most to help those at the bottom, de Blasio barnacles himself to a public education system that imposes its will on people who don’t have the means or the mobility to exercise their own.
What these families do have is desire and the knowledge they can opt out. Charters – and not just the ones de Blasio considers acceptable – give them something to opt for. Charter schools give these parents power that de Blasio, for all his progressive bluster, will not.
It’s time for him to face the fact that charters are here to stay and that the new way of public education is going to include both city-run schools and charters. This is true in New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Rochester, and more.
As Neerav Kingsland noted this weekend, charter enrollment only rises.
How can de Blasio possibly think charters won’t grow much anymore?
"People will come."
Folks are only going to get better at it. The teaching and learning in charters will continue to improve. Leaders will be grown. The sector will continue to diversify.
Expertise will build, and community roots will deepen. Charter governing boards will get better at their jobs. Parents will demand this kind of choice for their children.
People will come.
All over the country, smart educators, thinkers and do-ers are working to see that this becomes so.
Mayor de Blasio is tied to an old way. He can continue to deny this progress if he wants.
Or he could look at the performance of so many charters in the city and say:
“Look, you know I have concerns with some charters. But some of them appear to be done very well. Yes, there probably are things we can learn. We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas so we’re gonna take a look. It can only help what we do for the one million kids in the city schools.”
What’s there to lose? Even Nixon went to China.